Van Dijk bites back at Dutch legend after ‘clumsy’ criticism, as Liverpool star names biggest reason for struggles

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk Credit: Alamy
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk Credit: Alamy

Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk has responded after former Netherlands international Ruud Gullit called him ‘clumsy’ when defending in recent matches.

Van Dijk has been hugely influential to Liverpool’s success under Jurgen Klopp. Since Liverpool signed Van Dijk in January 2018, he has helped them win big trophies such as the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup.

The 31-year-old has established himself as one of the best defenders in the world. In 2019, he finished runner-up to Lionel Messi in the Ballon d’Or rankings, which shows how highly respected he is in the game.

But Van Dijk has not looked himself at times this season. He has been criticised for not being as aware to danger as in previous years, while some pundits have claimed he is looking slow and past his best.

Van Dijk has certainly not been helped by a hamstring injury which kept him out for seven matches between January 7 and February 13.

And the Dutchman, who has played 54 times for his country, has named this as the main reason for his recent struggles.

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Following Liverpool’s 5-2 thrashing by Real Madrid in the Champions League last week, Gullit blasted Van Dijk by saying: “Van Dijk puts his hands behind his back like a speed-skater and he bends his knees like speed-skaters do.

“His body is leaning forward. He kind of kneels down in his moves and only has his hands behind his back so he avoids a handball when the striker shoots. That, for me, is too easy – and it looks clumsy.”

Virgil van Dijk defends himself

Van Dijk has now responded to the three-time Serie A winner. He said (via the Daily Express): “I have nothing to say on that. I set high standards. People try to hold me to that so that’s what I try to do.

“Coming back from the big injury and then being out for six weeks is tough so playing three games for 90 minutes is something I’m very proud of and have worked hard for.”

While Van Dijk has not been at his best recently, it is harsh to judge him so soon after an injury. He will try to push on and establish himself as arguably the league’s most reliable centre-half once again.

The former Southampton man will also be helped next season if Liverpool improve their midfield. The midfield three have not provided enough cover to the defence this campaign, which is why Van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip have been exposed more often.

If Liverpool can sign a couple of top midfielders such as Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice, then this should help the defence to become rock solid once more.

Meanwhile, a bombshell report claims Mo Salah is ‘willing’ to leave Liverpool, with his most likely next club named.

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